Two years ago in the waters off the coast of Japan, a container ship collided with a U.S. Navy destroyer, killing seven sailors. Survivors of the collision, along with family members representing the sailor who lost their lives, have filed suit against the company which owns the ACX Crystal, the container vessel involved in the collision. The filing paints a terrifying picture of what the surviving sailors and those who lost their lives experienced during the collision.
The two ships were attempting to merge in waters that congested with marine traffic. The container vessel collided with the destroyer and caused a deep gash in the ship to flood two sleeping compartments, where approximately 300 sailors were asleep.
In the allegation, surviving sailors detailed the frantic escape from the sinking vessel. Those who survived were forced to “swim for their lives.” A statement from one of the last sailors to make it out of the sleeping quarters described a “wall of water” rushing into the compartment. A locker fell on him as he attempted to reach the door. A fellow sailor was able to push him out from under it. As he reached the port, he was completely submerged in water. Another sailor was able to reach down, grab his arm, and pull him to safety. Many of the sailors behind him did not make it out in time.
The lawsuit details the panic that the sailors who did not survive would have experienced during the last few moments of their lives. None of the sailors who died were killed by the initial collision. The claim states “all decedent Sailors suffered from a significant period of extreme conscious pain and suffering and pre-death fright from the time of the collision until their deaths by drowning.”
According to the plaintiffs, the ship collision was “entirely avoidable.” Their lawsuit claims that the personnel aboard the ACX Crystal failed to follow procedures intended to alert their own crew and nearby ships of impending danger. The claim states that it wasn’t until one minute before the collision that ACX Crystal operators took the ship off autopilot and took any manual maneuvers to avoid colliding with the destroyer. Additionally, the ship did not sound any short warning blasts, which could have alerted sailors aboard the Navy destroyer. An attorney representing the victims called the conduct of the ACX Crystal operators “negligent and reckless.”
The lawsuit, one of two lawsuits concerning the collision, was filed on Monday in a Louisiana federal court. The plaintiffs, which include relatives of the seven sailors who died, 40 sailors who survived the collision, and family members of some survivors, are seeking damages in excess of $287 million.
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